The pregnancy body is a tricky thing isn’t it? On the one hand, we know we are growing another human being and feeling that little person inside you can feel amazing. On the other hand, for some mums it can feel like you’re losing a bit of control over what your body is doing. And depending on the kind of pregnancy you’re having it can definitely have an effect on how you feel about your body, how you move and how your fitness levels fare.
For some mums it’s important that they maintain their existing routine for as long as possible. But for others it can be a confusing time, plus certain aspects of pregnancy can certainly make exercise either a bit tricky, or virtually impossible. However, whichever camp you fall into, what are the exercise considerations you should be making at each stage?
If you’re anything like me, this bit was horrid! While I never threw up, I felt like I had the worst hangover from the minute I woke up until the minute I went to bed. In my first pregnancy it meant I didn’t actually eat an awful lot and ended up losing half a stone by the time I was 3 months pregnant. In my second pregnancy, eating was the only thing that made me feel better, but of course it wasn’t the healthy stuff I craved…my tummy was far to busy feeling sick to consider allowing anything vaguely complicated.
As a result, for me exercise went well and truly out of the window until I was well into my second trimester. All I was interested in doing was lying on the sofa and eating plain pringles every now and again.
If you fall into that camp, please don’t despair. In time, it does pass (hopefully), but for now do what your body is telling you and rest. The odd walk and mini stretch wouldn’t go amiss to make sure you don’t completely seize up, but don’t stress about the situation.
If you feel well during the early months, and your pregnancy is low risk, then you can continue with your usual activity. However, this is a time to fully listen to what your body is telling you. No pushing through the pain barrier or going to your usual limits. Ease back just a touch and respect the work that your body is doing to grow that baby. And bear in mind that hormone levels are already changing in your body and your ligaments may not be providing you with the same level of support as usual, so go easy! Of course, if you are in any doubt at all, check with your doctor or midwife and if your pregnancy is classified as high risk, take proper medical advice first.
Around 13 weeks onwards, many women start to feel better and this is usually the easiest part of the pregnancy. You’re not too big yet, you’ve got your appetite and energy back and you feel in a better place to move a bit more. At this point, I think it’s a really good idea to start doing some pelvic floor and core work. This will give you a great basis for the rest of your pregnancy and, importantly, will help you in your recovery afterwards. It also means your core is providing you with that extra level of support which may help to reduce aches and pains as you get more pregnant. Find a local pregnancy exercise class that offers core and pelvic floor work, or try pregnancy pilates.
If you’ve not exercised for a little while, now is probably not the time to throw yourself straight back into your previous routine, particularly if that included lots of weights and high impact work. That’s not to say you can’t do those things, but having had a couple of months off will mean that you have to take a few steps back, work on the basics and learn how to use your core and pelvic floor as you lift and move. So swap high impact moves for a safer, lower impact alternative and reduce the weights that you were using previously.
Some women continue running and lifting weights quite far into their pregnancy, but whatever you do, please listen to your body. Ultimately, you know your body best. So if you feel particularly achy after you’ve exercised, you’re getting fatigued, you’re having to breath hold when you lift, you’re leaking, you’re feeling pressure around the vagina or rectum, or you just don’t feel as comfortable exercising any more, then please please ease back.
You’ll also have your 20 week scan during this trimester and the results of that can sometimes have an effect on what you can and can’t do. For example, if you have a low lying placenta or placenta praevia then exercise may be out of the question. Again, consult with your midwife or doctor to see what you can and can’t do. Just because your doc said you could carry on as normal at 12 weeks doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case at 20 weeks, so be prepared to change tack.
If you haven’t slowed down already, as you get towards 30+ week your body will probably start to force you to slow down a bit! At this point, the bump can start to get in the way a bit and you can start to notice a few aches and pains. You may also feel that you get out of breath more easily and even simple things like walking up the stairs can leave you a bit breathless at times. You’ll probably also want to go to the toilet more often as the growing baby puts more weight onto your bladder!
Whatever you’ve been doing up to this point, now really is a time to nurture yourself. I’m not saying don’t carry on doing exercises that still make you feel good. But this is a great time to slow things down a bit and pay lots of attention to stretching, releasing and relaxing. Stretches and releases will help you to keep aches and pains away for longer and will help to ease any tightness or soreness that you might get at the end of the day. They will also help you to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest system) which is really important as you near the birth and early days of motherhood.
Keep doing your pelvic floor and core exercises too – you may feel them less than you used to at this point, but they’re still really important! And walk whenever you can. Again, you can carry on with any exercises you might have been doing before as long as they still feel comfortable, but definitely reduce your weights and stick to low impact versions of your favourite exercises. And as always take medical advice and check in with your midwife at your antenatal appointments to make sure that any exercise you are doing is safe.
Ultimately, we know nowadays that you don’t need to stop all forms of exercise if you’re going through a straightforward pregnancy. In fact, exercise can be a huge benefit to you at this point in life. However, the key with pregnancy exercise is to really listen to your body – listen to what it needs and only move in ways that feel good, safe and that energise you!
If you’d like to find out more, come along to my Holistic Core Restore® BUMP Workshop on Wednesday 20th March at 8pm in Warlingham. You can find out more and book your space here.